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Bon Jovi - 2020 (Album Review)

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 Written by Simon Ramsay

On some level, Jon Bon Jovi has always wanted to be Bruce Springsteen. With Bon Jovi’s ‘2020’ he has attempted to craft a prescient socio-political effort that hits with the same emotional force as something from the pen of the Boss. Alas, it mostly strikes with the precision of a banana shaped water pistol. Noble in its intentions but flawed in execution, the album’s main achievement is to showcase the singer’s growing fallibility and his group’s increasingly faceless identity.

At his best, Jon excelled at rousing, chest-beating pop-rock anthems and beautifully saccharine ballads. He isn't Springsteen, or Bob Dylan, or any of the other greats he cites as influences. As such, tackling subjects like Covid-19 and the killing of George Floyd without the requisite artistry to do them justice has rendered these predominantly solo compositions unconvincing and predictable.

Crafting great music in this vein requires a unique take on proceedings and Jon doesn’t boast such insight here. 

Pointing out what everyone can see without adding much in the way of fresh, thought-provoking perspective, songs like Do What You Can and American Reckoning, where platitudes and on the nose storytelling run riot, are observationally superficial and emotionally one note.  

Jon’s certainly no slouch in the creative department, but he does appear to be bang average at this kind of writing. As a result, even the few impressive moments here are surrounded by mediocrity.

Lower The Flag’s fine verses are undone by a hackneyed chorus and po-faced mid section that sounds like Flight of the Conchords gone protest. His over earnest, poorly enunciated vocal delivery also smacks of someone trying too hard to sell their message.

In fairness, the frontman has successfully broached darker subjects before on the likes of 1995’s ‘These Days’. But that effort masked any flaws beneath the power of a fully functioning band who wrote immense hooks and passionate music full of character. Without departed guitarist and creative foil Richie Sambora (or legendary co-writer Desmond Child), all we get are pleasantly tuneful parts that, although occasionally top drawer, are mostly generic, safe and derivative of both other artists and themselves.

Blood In The Water begins like Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond before revealing itself to be a good, albeit watered down, Dry County copycat. Brothers In Arms, with its obvious Rebel Rebel lick, is a B-list I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Limitless and Beautiful Drug, meanwhile, offer Bon Jovi by numbers anthemics, their second rate hooks paling in comparison to past hits.

Jon Bon Jovi hasn’t made a great record since 2005’s ‘Have A Nice Day’ and the band’s post millennium output has been largely forgettable. His usual shtick lacks its old spark, but when he stretches out the results are inconsistent and disappointing. Worryingly, it’s hard not to ask where exactly he can go from here.


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